There is a fundamental tenet held among most animal welfare and animal rights advocates that is accepted as incontrovertible. That precept was perhaps best articulated by Mahatma Gandhi when he said, "The greatness of a nation and its moral progress is best judged by how we treat our animals." This principle expresses the belief that when a community is compassionate enough to care about the needs of its animals, there can be a reasonable expectation that the bar is raised on how we care for and treat one another.
The reverse is also true. If we can dismiss the needs of our animals, it becomes easier to dismiss the needs of our infirmed, aged, and needy human populations. Caring about animals becomes a litmus test for determining a community's capacity for compassion.
This test is applied to Yavapai County every day, but never more so than from the end of March through October and sometimes November - a time we call kitten season.
Each year during kitten season, Yavapai Humane Society (YHS) takes in hundreds of neonate kittens. Neonate means too young to survive for more than an hour or two without a mother. Sadly, most of the neonate kittens we take in are orphans. People find these babies in their garage, barn, flowerbeds and many other places where the mother felt safe from predators and intruders while she gave birth. Property owners find them within hours or days of birth and bring them to YHS without the mother. Taken away from their mother, they have no chance at survival without significant human intervention.
On the upside, most of our healthy weaned kittens do get adopted. So anything we can do to help our neonates reach "kitten-hood" improves their odds for eventually finding a loving home.
The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines "foster" as providing parental care and nurture to children not related through legal or blood ties. While Arizona state law does not define what an "adoptable" animal is, we intrinsically understand that our moral progress depends on our providing adequate care and nurture to these living souls with whom we have no legal or blood ties.
The problem is that we can't save them all by ourselves. We need your help. During kitten season, YHS can take in many neonate orphans every day. Depending on their age, they may require four to eight weeks of intensive foster care. The majority will not survive without your help. If you are able and willing to help save these lives, YHS will provide the training, support and supplies you need to be a foster parent.
This is a big commitment and a true test of our compassion. Even with our best efforts, not all foster babies survive. But they can all be loved. These babies need to be bottle-fed every two hours around the clock for several weeks, making this a perfect family, club, or faith-based organizational project. Fostering helpless neonates is one way to help foster compassion and respect for the sanctity of all life in our community.
We also need fosters for ailing or behaviorally challenged dogs of all ages and sizes. For more information on how you can volunteer to foster or make a donation to help others willing to make this commitment, please contact YHS.
Ed Boks is the executive director of the Yavapai Humane Society. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 928-445-2666, ext. 21.